Changing Chicago’s Radio Dial
AIR QUALITY: It’s been a dramatic year on the local airwaves, with several mainstays switching call letters and changing playlists.
What It Was: Soft jazz
What Happened: Merlin Media, which also owns 97.9 and 101.1, bought the station in May and switched it to ’90s alternative. “We found a hole in the marketplace,” says Merlin’s operations manager, Jim Richards. One problem: Most radios don’t tune below 87.9.
What It Is Now: Green Day, Passion Pit—basically, the new WXRT, but without the weird live music on Sundays.
What It Was: Oldies
What Happened: The word “oldies” became . . . well, old. After a report ranked its station 15th in the 25-to-54 age demographic, Cumulus Media vowed not to use the word again on the air.
What It Is Now: As of September, “Chicago’s Classic Hits”—mostly ’70s and ’80s rock. Think 97.9, but with John “Records” Landecker and Dick Biondi spinning.
What It Was: All news
What Happened: After a year of “minimal audience engagement,” Merlin Media scrapped the station’s format in July, abruptly changing to adult hits to attract female listeners ages 18 to 49—and voice-tracked hosts in the early hour shows.
What It Is Now: Destiny’s Child, Goo Goo Dolls, Kelly Clarkson, and Alanis Morissette—so, The Mix, but without Eric and Kathy’s morning banter.
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Where Are They Now?: Chicago Radio Personalities
A quick roundup of the radio hosts of yore.
When we tackled what’s changed in Chicago radio in 2012, we couldn’t help but talk about some of our favorite radio hosts from the past. Here are just a few of the old gang and what they’re up to now (as far as we can tell).
When Q101’s DJ Electra hung up her headset in 2011, she left radio altogether. Now Christine Pawlak, 32, is a paralegal at Loyola University—and loving the break from the airwaves. “I would rather make playlists at this point and share them with those closest to me,” she says. “That’s the role deejaying plays in my life now.”
DreX and Mel Tovar
103.5 KISS FM
Kevin Buchar, a.k.a. DreX, hosted his own morning show on 103.5 KISS FM from 2003 to 2010, until he was promptly booted from the channel and disappeared. Robert Feder was able to track him down in February. Now, he’ll just occasionally post pictures to his Facebook wall.
Mel Tovar, or Mel T when she was co-hosting DreX’s morning show, was also fired back in 2010. She recently got married in San Antonio, where she had originally co-hosted with DreX back in the early 2000s.
93.9 The Lite
The former host of WLIT’s Morning Time Drive Show, Forman was fired in 2009. “This is not about Melissa,” Clear Channel Radio/Chicago president Earl Jones told the Tribune. If you’re looking to hear her again, though, tune into WCIU’s morning show “You & Me This Morning,” the 6–8 a.m. program Forman has co-hosted since 2011.
O’Dell, one of the premier voices of WGN radio, joined the station in 1987 and hosted in the mornings from 2000 to 2008. He pops up occasionally to sound off on the direction of the channel since his departure, but is mostly enjoying retirement and spending some time with his grandkids.
Kathy and Judy
They were known as the Girlfriends for 20 years, but in 2009, WGN dropped Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey from their morning show, citing business reasons. O’Malley moved to Princeton, Illinois. Markey, meanwhile, has kept up an active presence on Chicago’s North Shore, even headlining an event to benefit congressional candidate (now Congressman-elect) Brad Schneider this September.
Want to feel old? Mancow’s Morning Madhouse premiered almost 20 years ago, in 1994. The provocative personality was fired from Q101 in 2006, joined WLS in 2008, and was fired from that job in 2010. Muller is still on the airwaves, although it may be easier to tune in online—if you want him on the dial, find 1530 AM from 7 to 10 a.m.
Eddie and Jobo
If you don’t know where to listen to the longtime duo Ed Volkman and Joe Colborn right now, you really aren’t paying attention. After a 20-year run together at B96 (seriously! 1988-2008), the pair took over mornings on 104.3 in 2011.